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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Turkey Escalates Purge of Teachers, Workers Allegedly Connected to Failed Coup

by Ken Bredemeier July 19, 2016

Turkey escalated its purge Tuesday of teachers and civil servants suspected of involvement in last week's failed coup, firing more than 26,000 people, while sending dossiers to Washington alleging an exiled Islamic cleric was behind the putsch.

Turkish media reported that the education ministry fired 15,200 teachers across the country, while the interior ministry dismissed nearly 9,000 workers. Another 1,500 in the finance ministry were fired, as were hundreds more in the religious affairs directorate, the family and social policy ministry and prime minister's office. The country's higher education board demanded the resignations of 1,577 university deans.

The firings came on top of about 9,000 people Ankara has detained for suspected involvement in the attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkey has sent four files to the U.S. on Fethullah Gulen, a self-exiled cleric who has lived in the United States since 1999. Turkey claims that the 75-year-old Gulen orchestrated last Friday's coup attempt from 8,000 kilometers away, issuing commands from his Poconos Mountains compound in the northeastern state of Pennsylvania.

He has denied the allegations.

In Washington, the White House said President Barack Obama discussed the status of Gulen in a telephone call with Erdogan, while urging the Turkish leader to show restraint as the government cracks down on those it believes supported the coup attempt.

Turkey did not provide details what the Gulen dossiers say, but Yildirim urged the U.S. to not "harbor this terrorist any longer. He is of no benefit to humanity, he is of no benefit to Islam." But Turkey has yet to formally ask for Gulen's extradition.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday the U.S. would consider Gulen's extradition, but only if Ankara sends "evidence, not allegations."

Call for 'brotherhood'

Amidst U.S. and western criticism of the Turkey crackdown and the firing of the workers, Yildirim on Tuesday cautioned people against seeking revenge for the failed coup attempt.

"Nobody can have a feeling of revenge. This is unacceptable in a state governed by rule of law," Yildirim said as he called for "brotherhood" following the attempted coup.

Gulen's influence

Gulen lives in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, on the grounds of the Golden Generation Worship & Retreat Center, an Islamic facility founded by Turkish-Americans. His philosophy mixes a mystical form of Islam with staunch advocacy of democracy, education, science and interfaith dialogue. His movement operates dozens of charter schools in the U.S.

Gulen continues to exert considerable influence in Turkey, with supporters in the media, police and judiciary.

Erdogan and Gulen were once allies, but had a falling out over 2013 corruption investigations in Turkey, which the Turkish leader blamed on Gulen.

The exiled Gulen has also criticized Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian rule, while the Turkish leader has carried out a broad campaign against Gulen's movement.

The United States is urging Turkey to exercise restraint and act within the rule of law as it investigates last week's failed coup.

Calls for restraint, justice

In Brussels on Monday, Kerry said he supported bringing perpetrators of the attempted coup in Turkey to justice, but warned the government against going "too far" while restoring order in the country.

At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest stressed U.S. support for Turkey's "democratically elected" government and said Washington strongly values "the important relationship" with its NATO ally. But he said the government should "be supportive of due process and freedoms that are outlined in the Turkish constitution that include freedom of speech, freedom of press and freedom of assembly."

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein called for international observers to be stationed at detention centers to make sure those accused of being involved in the coup attempt have access to lawyers and their families.

"In the aftermath of such a traumatic experience, it is particularly crucial to ensure that human rights are not squandered in the name of security and in the rush to punish those perceived to be responsible," Zeid said in a statement. "Reintroduction of the death penalty would be in breach of Turkey's obligations under international human rights law, a big step in the wrong direction," he said.

Erdogan said Sunday he is receptive to reinstating the country's death penalty in the aftermath of the coup attempt. But EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned that such a step may end Turkey's EU membership hopes.

"Let me be very clear," she said. "No country can become an EU state if it introduces the death penalty."

Turkey hasn't executed anyone since 1984, and capital punishment was legally abolished in 2004 as part of Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

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